Monday, February 02, 2009

B-Fest 2009

Whew. My eighth consecutive B-Fest. Will I ever retire from B-Festing, in essence, admitting, like Danny Glover, I'm "too old for this shit?" Not likely anytime soon. Whenever I feel exhausted, grungy, and smelly while watching some horrid celluloid, something like MEGAFORCE comes along and reminds me why I love Crappy Movies so dearly.

I'll skip the B-Fest background. See my earlier blogs for reviews of B-Fests 2008, 2007, 2006, and 2005. Most of the prints were 16mm with a few 35mm and I don't know what MEGAFORCE was.

After arriving in plenty of time to get settled in a nice spot in the auditorium, far away from our archenemies with loud voices who yell idiotic stuff all night, Toler, Grady, and I prepared for 24 straight hours of Crappy Movies, beginning with...FIREWALKER.
I actually saw FIREWALKER theatrically when Cannon released it in 1986. It's basically a ripoff of Cannon's KING SOLOMON'S MINES as a buddy picture, which were huge in the '80s. Cannon's leading star, Chuck Norris, teams with Oscar-winner (!) Lou Gossett Jr. and lovely FLASH GORDON leading lady Melody Anderson in an adventure to find Aztec treasure in Central America. FIREWALKER gets a bad rap--and it is very sloppy--but it's fast, funny, and a good time. It also spawned a couple of running gags for the fest. In every other film featuring fire, an audience member would demand a character walk on it. Also, Norris has an (unintentionally?) hilarious line that goes something like, "Well, if the gold isn't there, then it has to be somewhere else." I like when he tells Lou to "stop acting like a dadgum sissy." Chuck is now a B-Fest regular, and it's all the better for him.

I haven't seen this Universal horror classic since the days of the Channel 3 EARLY SHOW. It's short and fun, though Lon Chaney's constant whining about wanting to die grows tiresome, and Bela Lugosi just doesn't look like the Frankenstein Monster at all. Bela really isn't in the film very much, as I assume all the action sequences are a stuntman.

1940's MURDER IN THE AIR was the dud of the night. Not only was scheduling back-to-back black-and-whites this early a bad move, MURDER IN THE AIR isn't interesting enough for a B-Fest. It's actually not a bad little programmer; Turner Classic Movies runs this and Ronald Reagan's other Brass Bancroft movies occasionally. But it has little action, and Eddie Foy Jr.'s comic antics don't translate well to fidgety B-Festers.

Nicole joined us in time for the first short of the night, which Toler actually hoped we'd see again this year. The bizarre COMICS AND KIDS is, I guess, an anti-comic book screed about young boys reading Sgt. Rock comics in their treehouse, while a narrator creepily whispers stuff like, "Yeah! Kill! Kill! Yeah! Do it!" After the boys read their war comics, they arm themselves and go to the beach to blow up other kids' sand castles. It's stupid, misguided, and funny.

A B-Fest tradition is the short version of Mike Jittlov's incredible THE WIZARD OF SPEED AND TIME, which is always followed by the same short, but backwards and upside-down. The stage in front of the screen is covered with B-Festers who lay there and stomp their feet to the music. I don't know why. Jittlov also made a feature version of WOSAT, but here's the short that runs at B-Fest every year. It's truly wonderful.


"Can you prove that it didn't happen?" The biggest B-Fest tradition is Ed Wood's notorious PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, which has its own ROCKY HORROR-like following. Chants of "Bela!"/"Not Bela!", "Wicker!"/"Rattan!", "Tor!", and others reign supreme, and every sighting of a flying saucer sends thousands of paper plates flying through the air. Thankfully, Northwestern's Norris Auditorium provides a recycling bin for the refuse later (I should note that B-Fest crowds are amazingly thoughtful about cleaning up after themselves, which is more than you can say for "regular" audiences who go to regular movie theaters). Our friend Liz showed up in time for the PLAN 9 insanity, which is an essential element of B-Fest.

I dozed off and missed the end of SCREAM BLACULA SCREAM, which I'd seen before, but wasn't blown away by. The awesome Pam Grier is in it, but isn't the badass she would soon become for AIP. William Marshall as Blacula is a terrific actor, making what could have been a silly joke of a character someone truly interesting and frightening. Craig T. Nelson is in it too, though I missed his appearance.

1956's DON'T KNOCK THE ROCK was B-Fest's token musical. This Sam Katzman quickie is good for a few laughs, and the musical acts--including Bill Haley and His Comets, the Treniers, Dave Appell and His Applejacks, and especially Little Richard, who rips the heck outta "Tutti Frutti" and "Long Tall Sally"--are pretty cool. Blond Jana Lund, I could watch do anything, but lead Alan Dale is the world's tamest rock-and-roller.

I missed most of DONOVAN'S BRAIN, the rare B-Fest movie I hadn't already seen. I think the audience missed the fact that Nancy Reagan (billed as Nancy Davis) is Lew Ayres' co-star. I wish I hadn't nodded off during this; most of what I saw was good, including Ayres, who plays two distinct personalities.

I watched most of THE TINGLER, but fell asleep near the end, which is where the good parts are. Right after Vincent Price's acid trip, I was conked out until the screaming audience aroused me at the end. Ludicrous science combines with a smooth Price performance and a swell gimmick for a fun William Castle chiller that is tailor-made for B-Fest, as its audience participation is built right into it.

Uh, yeah, I missed a lot of this one too. A shame, because John Carradine is in it, and co-star Acquanetta is very sexy in her short skirts. Basically, Carradine is a mad scientist who turns a gorilla into Acquanetta, which actually seems like a good idea to me. She falls in love with Carradine and starts killing people when he doesn't love her back. I'll have to catch up with this again some time.

Dudikoff...fuck, yeah! I think AMERICAN NINJA 2: THE CONFRONTATION is Dudikoff's B-Fest debut. I also saw this theatrically when Cannon released it in 1987. A lot of confronting happens, including The Dude's one-on-one against Mike Stone near the end. LAND OF THE GIANTS captain Gary Conway, who also wrote this, is a druglord who genetically creates his own army of superninjas to rule the world with. Army Ranger Dudikoff and sidekick Steve James (a better fighter and actor than Dudikoff, truth be told) go to the Philippines to investigate the kidnapping of U.S. Marines and stumble upon Conway's plot. It's an awful shame that James, who died over a decade ago much too soon, never headlined his own movies, because he was a handsome, charismatic guy who could handle action scenes and humor as well as anyone.

It's true--THE TERROR OF TINY TOWN is the world's first--and only?--all-midget western. With musical sequences. The budget and scripting are so poor that no one would remember this movie at all if not for its cast, which are game performers at least and appear to be in on the joke. Even though the town is populated solely by little people, the buildings are normal-sized, leading to gags where the cowboys duck under the hitching ropes and barge into the saloon through swinging doors that are head-high. It's a five-minute sketch stretched to about 65 minutes, and is essential viewing for all Crappy Movie lovers.

Bruce Dern stars in the second incredible-two-headed-transplant movie of 1971 (the wackier THE THING WITH TWO HEADS was the other). Dern, just about to leave this type of movie forever, is a mad scientist who ignores his hot midriff-baring wife (THE MUNSTERS' Pat Priest) and his earnest doctor best friend (Casey Kasem!) to transplant the head of a drooling homicidal maniac (Albert Cole) onto the shoulder of his hulking retard handyman (John Bloom). It gets loose, of course, and starts killing smoochers and bikers. Ridiculous movie is not unwatchable, even though this is about the fourth time I've seen it.

MEGAFORCE...fuck, yeah! The biggest crowd-pleaser of B-Fest is an idiotic action movie that was the biggest bomb of 1982. It was so bad that even I didn't see it in 1982, and I was the target audience. I have about 200 comic books with a MEGAFORCE ad on the back cover. However, it's hilarious with the right crowd, which was screaming with laughter by the end and rewarded MEGAFORCE with a standing ovation. Barry Bostwick (recently a guest star on SUPERNATURAL) is a Spandex-wearing, blue-rolled-headband-sporting, Barry-Gibb-haired mercenary named Ace Hunter who has his own government-funded strike force that sets off against terrorist Henry Silva. PG-rated with no loss of life, despite the explosions and flying bullets, MEGAFORCE is a dunderheaded delight with a finale that features the worst special effects for a major Hollywood '80s film ever. Make sure you stay through the credits for an absurd coda.

MEGAFORCE was the only film shown on a DVD, though it's not currently available on DVD, at least not in Region 1. It was a fairly good-looking print--better than the VHS tapes I've seen--and was full-frame, which was fine, since MEGAFORCE was shot open matte. Maybe it was a dub of the laserdisc (?), though there were no side breaks.

Despite the poster, the Twin Towers are nowhere near GODZILLA VS. MEGALON, which is totally set in Japan. This is the movie with Jet Jaguar, the size-changing robot that teams up with Godzilla to battle Megalon and Gigan after the evil underground dwellers of Seatopia rise from the ocean and sic the mean monsters on us. The annoying (and terribly dubbed) little boy in tiny shorts was the source of the audience's cruel, but deserved, taunts for the most part, but this movie is the perfect capper to B-Fest. Lots of monster fighting and big laughs, including Godzilla (somehow) flying on its tail to deliver a two-footed finishing move to Megalon.

Then, it was off to Leona's on Sheridan for our traditional Italian dinner to cleanse our systems of the snack foods we subsisted on for the last 24 hours. Since this was my first B-Fest after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, which led to a change in my diet, I didn't eat as much junk as I usually do, though I still had more carbs than my doctor would probably be comfortable with.

All in all, another exhilarating B-Fest. How many days 'til B-Fest 2010?

5 comments:

Moviezzz said...

Sounds like fun!

What was the coda to MEGAFORCE? I don't remember it (and those comic book ads which I remember quite well got me, I saw it at a drive in).

I wrote a Forgotten Film story about MEGAFORCE and got a very interesting comment from the original screenwriter of the film.

It needs to be on DVD!

Marty McKee said...

For some reason, after all the credits, they repeat the scene where Bostwick knocks on Henry Silva's tank and tells him that the good guys always win, even in the '80s. Then "The End" appears over a freeze frame of Bostwick's smiling face. Hilarious.

Neil Sarver said...

Oh, man! I read that original post on Moviezzz, but hadn't seen that comment. Awesome! I love that guy, although I'm not sure "Smokey and the Bandit Kill
Commies" is a premise with much potential.

I watched Megaforce toward the end of the summer on what I'd guess was an off-region DVD, but I couldn't tell you where it was from at this point.

I can totally see why it'd be a great time at an event like this, but it really is pretty lousy all around. I kept waiting for something, at least some kick ass action/stunts or something... I mean, it's Hal Needham, but nothing really saved it from its dull, wooden quality, except that it's so, so dull and wooden that one can't help but laugh.

Marty McKee said...

Seems like Needham's performance may be more energetic than his direction. I've always been intrigued by Robert Fuller's role. Seems like not much of a role for a name like his.

Tolemite said...

You're a robot made by humans, but

Jet Jaguar, Jet Jaguar,

You did it, Jet Jaguar

Go, go to protect peace

We are all surprised at the courage you show

Godzilla and Jaguar punch, punch, punch

(Punch! Punch! Punch!)

Don't cry, let's do our best